This past Saturday a horrific terrorist attack occurred at a WalMart in El Paso, Texas. 22 were killed. This post looks at the issues with Christian Nationalism and racism as well as evangelical support of Trump who may have inspired a domestic terrorist attack. This post is coming from someone who is in the 17% minority. Also explored is how many evangelicals have morally failed. Plus its time for other Christian bloggers to address the issue of Christian Nationalism.
“Racism is man’s gravest threat to man – the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason.”
Abraham Joshua Heschel
“Racism springs from ignorance.”
And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Matthew 22:39-40 NIV
Memorial in Charlottesville, Virginia where Heather Heyer died.
I was planning on doing a post about Harvest Bible Chapel but in light of what happened in El Paso, Texas I decided to change plans and address an issue that is troubling me. One of the churches that I became involved in here in the Washington, D.C. area was National Community Church (NCC) as led by Mark Batterson. NCC is an Assembly of God church that pioneered the concept of churches meeting in movie theaters. Quick side note, before Mark Batterson took it over it had a reputation for protesting at abortion clinics in Washington, D.C. When I was involved it was in the movie theaters which once existed in Union Station in Washington, D.C. I did a number of small groups through NCC. In the fall of 2008 or 2009 I was in a men’s group. We were reading and discussing Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “The Cost of Discipleship.” For those of you who do not know Detrich Bonhoeffer was a founder of the German confessing church. He also was a German pastor and theologian who was involved in the anti-Nazi movement. Bonhoeffer was known for being a vocal opponent of Hitler and challenging the Nazi regime over issues such as euthanasia and the genocidal persecution of the Jews. When an assassination attempt against Hitler on July 20, 1944 failed Bonhoeffer was accused of being a part of the effort and he was put in a concentration camp. After a swift “trial” he was executed. Bonhoeffer became very popular in the evangelical church after Eric Metaxas published his biography on him.
So going back to a men’s study in NCC. I was sitting in the living room in a small townhouse a few blocks from Union Station. We were reading and discussing “The Cost of Discipleship” and exploring some of Bonhoeffer’s teaching on cheap grace and more. When we were considering what happened to Bonhoeffer it was raised as a discussion question. What would you do if you were in Bonhoeffer’s shoes? Could you speak out and take the right course of action? Several people discussed the question, some were honest and uneasy. They thought they would be afraid. Others said that they would feel compelled to speak up. Staying silent would trouble them. I sat in a comfortable couch and just listened and thought nothing of it. Today this conversation haunts me and that discussion had led to this post being composed.
Christian Nationalism and Racism
In the last three years there has been a re-emergence of Christian Nationalism. And along with Christian Nationalism, racism has also raised its ugly head. In the 2016 race I was a Marco Rubio guy and voted for him in the primary. But when November came along I could not go for Trump. As a result I became a part of the 17% or so of evangelicals who opposed him. In 2016 and 2017 I was caught off guard by the resurgence of Christian Nationalism. It tore apart some of the relationships I had from Wisconsin. Affected were people from my former church who I once admired and loved at Wooded Hills. Some lashed out, accused me of being a “liberal” and they cut some of the ties they had with me. I lost some relationships that were two decades old. This included some of the senior pastor’s family at the time. Some of these people I once worshiped with, respected, sat in their home for meals, did Bible studies and retreats with them. And in the end it was like the relationship was in vain. This also happened with some of my contacts from Campus Crusade in Milwaukee. My former Crusade director and his wife once adopted a black child from Africa. He often spoke about racism and how segregated Milwaukee was. And Milwaukee has a serious problem with segregation. But with Christian Nationalism I had a falling out with him also. He would troll, be difficult to the point that others on social media noticed his behavior. I privately wondered was all that he taught about racism wrong? As someone who adopted from Africa he didn’t stop and consider what Trump’s comments about Africa being a shithole really meant. Why adopt out of a shithole? What does that mean for people who come from such a place? Why couldn’t he connect the dots?
Over the past two years I have seen an uptick of racism and Christian Nationalism and noticed the issue becoming worse. The traditional evangelicals have deeply disappointed me as they became blind to the issues at hand. In my own personal life in addition to people I knew from Wisconsin being affected by this I saw this start to creep into the church I was involved in at the time here in the DC area. Comments started to appear and I heard constant praise about Liberty University among other issues that just baffled me. Before I transitioned into being a part of the dones, Christian Nationalism bothered me. I had reached my personal tipping point and decided to stay away from church for the most part. But let’s recall some of the disturbing racist behavior that was witnessed. Neo-Nazis were called fine people, hearing about shitholes in Africa whereas Nordic countries are preferable, disparaging comments about Mexicans and Hispanics with calls to stop the invasion of people of like minded descent, saying that all people from Haiti have AIDS, playing on white fears of black crime in 2016 campaign rallies and more. Then Trump attacked four Congresswomen whom I don’t always agree with myself and told them to go back to where they came from. This writer who is of Irish descent remembers how the Irish were also told that in the 19th and 20th century. Ireland at one point was like Mexico. Steeped in poverty, famine and hoards of refugees pouring into the United States after the Great Potato Famine of 1845 to 1849 resulted in the deaths of over 1 million Irish. In the 1850’s the Know Nothings a xenophobic, nationalist party wanted to send the Irish back to Ireland.
Recently I was traveling through Pennsylvania and I met with someone to speak about a number of issues. In the discussion the person raised the point by how disturbed he was to see evangelicals embrace Trump and dismiss his behavior. Who were these people? He thought he knew them, but then he realized that in the end he didn’t know them at all. I feel similar. From my Cru director in Milwaukee to many people from church I thought I knew some of them well. I guess in the end I didn’t know them either. Christian Nationalism had jaded my view of church also as it helped drive me away from it.
Evangelicals Continue to Embrace Trump Amidst the Racism as They Want the Court System Changed. Remembering Historical Lessons From Germany
But in the racism that exists today there is an disturbing parallel as well. In the Weimar Republic of 1920’s Germany was awash in differing cultures and new ideas. In the 1920’s being gay was more accepted in Weimar and there was entertainment that was considered by many Christians to be pornographic and questionable. Germany had slipped into moral decay. If you want to see this then I would recommend you watch the movie Cabaret with Joel Grey and Liza Minnelli. In this post are several clips that are embedded. When the Nazis started to ascend in politics after the 1929 stock market crash and world depression, many German Christians bought into the promises of Hitler. And thus after the Third Reich was formed some of what German Christians desired for happened. There were crackdowns on gays and many were sent to concentration camps. Obscenity laws were enforced and questionable nightclubs and “obscene” material was banned. Large families were pushed by the German government, and women were encouraged to stay home and not work. Much of this was encouraged by Christians in Germany, and they chose to look the other way when reports of genocide started to surface. Those who didn’t go along were those like Bonhoeffer and those who fell into the same belief system, they were a minority of the German church. Many German Christians obtained what they wanted, the moral trade off was the death of 6 million Jews and war in Europe. That was the lesson of German Christians and the Third Reich.
Can the lessons of Germany be applied today? Are American evangelicals taking similar action? Fueled by their desire to get conservative judges in the court system or to block gay marriage have American evangelicals acted in a similar meaner? After all when I see pictures of some of the Trump rallies where people wear t-shirts saying, “Born Again Trump Supporter” and joking about shooting immigrants is that the trade off? For German Christians their moral failure that came about due to their moral trade which resulted in Jews who died in concentration camps. For evangelicals who blindly follow Trump to get “conservatives” on the court is their trade off to ignore white supremacy and acts of mass shootings? Is the moral failure of some evangelicals resulting in a white nationalist going on a shooting rampage in a WalMart in El Paso with a goal to stop the invasion of Hispanics? Evangelical Christians is that what a court seat on the Supreme Court or elsewhere is worth to you?
I saw the warnings in 2016 and I could not go down that path. What has been even more disappointing is knowing people who have. When I heard the anti-immigration rhetoric in 2016 in national politics going to new highs I ended up walking out of a Christmas service. How can evangelicals support someone saying such offensive language and then go to church and hear the story of Bethlehem? Can someone out there explain that to me? The only way this will change is if conservative evangelicals push back against Christian Nationalism. The recent statement by many theological liberals against Christian Nationalism will not work because it is coming from the wrong camp. Those who are the 18% and others need to pushback hard and raise this issue. Many evangelical Christians have failed. That is if they care about the gospel. If not then they will be okay with Christian Nationalism replacing the Gospel. The reality is that neither political party fits nicely into one’s theological system. The honest truth is that it is lazy to fuse political beliefs with one party. I liked what John Nett said on Twitter the other day, it captures the issue well.
Those who embrace Trump amidst the nationalist and racist behavior, and those who are silent who should be speaking out more. My men’s group study at National Community Church 11 years ago showed me today that evangelicals can talk a good game, but they fail to execute.
How Other Blogs Have Avoided the Christian Nationalist Issue
However, there is something that needs to be addressed and raised as well. Before I did this post I went and scanned a number of blogs and social media platforms. Really the only ones who have addressed the issue of Christian Nationalism have been John Pavolitiz, Warren Throckmorton and John Fea. John Fea has written about it in detail and in a historical context which this blog deeply appreciates. And that is largely it. Many other Christian blogs that like to speak to issues in evangelicalism have been silent on Christian Nationalism. And their silence has been loud. And yet all they want to be focus on is child sex abuse, Neo-Calvinism or individual denominations or personalities. And to be clear I believe those issues need to be researched and written about. But child sex abuse, Neo-Calvinism and more are not the only issues that exist. There are other issues that also exist and Christian Nationalism is a serious problem.
This blog has never been about creating a following. This blog has been about speaking truth and writing about a number of issues. In many ways I am my own person. And yet its troubling that there are many others in the blogging world who are avoiding and missing this issue. Maybe the issue is that some have hidden agendas or are platforms for narcissists. Maybe another factor is that they are okay with Christian Nationalism and think that is fine. In 2016 abuse was mainstreamed and many spiritual bloggers have committed an epic fail on this issue. But now we are dealing with a situation in which Christian Nationalism is contributing to violence in the United States. And people are remaining silent. That is evil and that is wrong. And its a topic that needs to also be raised. Enabling white supremacy is a serious issue, history is full of examples of what happens when Christians fail on this subject. Up above I briefly wrote about how Christians in Germany made a moral trade off with the Nazis.
And after El Paso this blog has said what it has needed to say. My heart breaks for the stories I am hearing about. The one that caused me to cry is the story of Jordan and Andre Anchondo who died in WalMart while protecting their two month old son. Evangelical Trump supporters I am going to make this as plain as I can. You can’t have a President tweet racism and lead rallies where people say, “Shoot them!” You can’t create an atmosphere where that is stirred up and encouraged and not have a gunman inspired by hate who did what he did in El Paso. For those of you who support Trump, and in some cases may have attended one of these rallies in my view you are complicit in the deaths of 22 people in El Paso, Texas. Like Germany, at some point there becomes a tipping point where words are translated into actions. In Germany calling people roaches and more paved the way for the Final Solution. In regards to white supremacist ideology in the United States you can’t stir up such hate and not have mass shooting where the gunman acts to stop a said “invasion.” What happened in El Paso is a direct result of Trump’s behavior and a by-product of evangelicals who supported him. You may say that is uncalled for and inappropriate and over the line – and you are free to speak your mind. But the facts of what happened in the 2016 were well known. The red flags existed. This is the natural outgrowth of those beliefs. So I have said what I needed to say. If this post makes you uneasy, uncomfortable and you lose sleep, well then I have done my job.